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Lukashenko tells army to quash revolution attempts

August 22, 2020

The Belarusian army has been told to respond to any attempts to overthrow President Alexander Lukashenko two weeks after he claimed a new term as president. Some 20 news websites have been blocked, say journalists.

Alexander Lukashenko visits a military firing range
Image: Reuters/BeITA

Belarus' BelTA state news agency on Saturday cited Alexander Lukashenko as ordering his defense minister to enact "the most stringent" army measures while visiting military units at Grodno, near the country's border with Poland.

The autocratic six-term president again claimed NATO troops in Poland and Lithuania were "seriously stirring" near Belarus's borders — assertions denied by trans-Atlantic leaders in recent days.

Belarus' army must "protect the territorial integrity of our country," said Lukashenko, adding "military support is evident," a reference to NATO.

Read more: Belarusians 'will never accept' Lukashenko's leadership, says opposition's Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya

With bodyguards in Lithuania, his main opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told Reuters in an interview that Lukashenko will have to leave Belarus sooner or later.

She was receiving lots of calls from international leaders, including those of Germany and Britain, said Tsikanouskaya, who on Friday ruled out her inclusion in an electoral re-run after originally standing in for her jailed blogger husband. 

"More than enough," she declared Friday, referring to mass protests inside Belarus against Lukashenko on charges that his August 9 result of 80% was rigged.

Lukashenko has rejected the notion of another ballot, vowing on Friday to "solve the problem" presented by two weeks of often mass defiance.

After a rally last Sunday in Minsk put at 200,000 strong, Tsikhanouskaya has called for another march this Sunday. "We are closers than ever to our dream."

Read more: Cops quit in Belarus: 'That's not why we entered the force'

News websites 'blocked'

Belarus' Association of Journalists on Saturday said more than 20 news websites reporting on the former-Soviet republic's drama had been blocked.

Among those unreachable were those of the US-funded Radio Liberty and Belsat, a Polish-funded satellite TV channel, said the association.

Print-runs of newspapers, the Narodnaya Volya and Komsomolskaya Pravda, were stopped Friday when Belarus' state publishing house cited equipment malfunctions.

Authorities on Friday also threatened demonstrators with criminal charges and summoned several opposition activists for questioning in Minsk.

Read more: Belarus protests: Prisoners accuse police of torture, detail 'beatings'

On Friday the European Union, which dismissed the election count, accused Belarus's government of intimidating members of a nascent opposition negotiating body called the Coordination Council.

The UN Human Rights Office said it was "seriously concerned" about more than 100 people still being detained, despite releases of several thousand dissidents.

Lithuania's foreign ministry said Saturday that US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun would next week visit Lithuania and Russia for talks on Belarus.

ipj/mm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)